...and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.” Reading this verse in Ecclesiastes 10:10 recently prompted a recall from my memory banks of several instances in the past which God used to emphasize this important lesson to me.
Our Boy Scout troop joined other Scout troops in the state for a summer jamboree. We were divided into teams for competition. Each team had to participate in the log chopping contest and it was late morning when we began that particular event. The axes were provided and the goal was to determine which team could chop through a selected log in the shortest amount of time. For some reason, I was elected to be our “chopper”. My opponent and I furiously swung our axes, using the skill we were supposed to have developed. Wood chips began to fly; but after several minutes, it did not seem like there was much of a dent in either one of our logs. Perspiration poured down my face as I increased the effort and strength of my swing. I just could not seem to get very deep very fast. Slightly encouraged by the observation that I was making better progress than my opponent, I worked even harder as my cut neared the middle of the log. Then it happened. My challenger’s axe went clear through his log. He had hit into a rotted portion that had been unnoticed by everyone. What a disappointment for me. He, of course, had the better time while I still had to finish chopping my log. It was well after that event that I realized the axe had been used several times before I picked it up and had not been sharpened between times. No wonder I felt as though I was working unproductively; but I certainly was chopping wholeheartedly and sincerely!
A story I heard about Abraham Lincoln made sense after my wood chopping experience and made me wonder if he knew Ecclesiastes 10:10. He reportedly said that if he were given six hours to cut some trees, he would spend four of those hours sharpening his axe. In other words, a properly sharpened instrument is invaluable for doing a good job; and it takes concentrated time and effort to make sure the instrument is sharp.
One thing to realize is that sharpening the axe does not all happen in one section of time. Lincoln did not mean to imply that he spent the first four hours sharpening the axe and the last two chopping. Rather, his schedule might look something like this: twenty minutes chopping, then forty minutes sharpening; or perhaps it could be ten minutes chopping, then twenty minutes sharpening, etc.
It would be foolish and unproductive to sharpen an axe and never use it. It would also be foolish and unproductive to use an axe and never take the time to stop and re-sharpen it. We need to sharpen our axes periodically. If the axe is used at all, it will become dull; and when it begins to get dull, it should immediately be sharpened.
There are many helps available to help you sharpen your axe - Scripture, prayer, fellowship with strong believers, and regular attendance at church, among others. It is well worth your time to spend time in preparation for the work that is ahead of you. Don’t wait until you are in a situation where you need it desperately and find that your tools are not sharp enough to help you.
Author: David Watkins
Published: September 22, 2012 in The Paper MÂCHÉ